India's Tech Mahindra expands African footprint

Accra, Sep 26 (IANS) Seven years after India's leading global IT systems integration provider Tech Mahindra entered Botswana, the company has expanded its footprint across nine African countries to share in the continent's growth story and also create jobs.

"For the Mahindra group, Africa is an important continent and we want to build and share the growth of African nations by providing technology and also create jobs," senior vice president Sriram Veeravalli Sevellimedu said at the recent commissioning of a new call centre at Abeokuta, the capital of Nigeria's Ogun state.

A Tech Mahindra official told IANS that the African attraction was based on the fact that the continent has seen economic growth, which has seen expansion in the telecommunications, banking as well as the oil and gas sectors. "We therefore decided to be part of this growth as well as contribute to Africa's community social responsibility," the official added.

After setting up shop in Botswana in 2006, Tech Mahindra now operates in South Africa, Nigeria, Zambia, Ghana, Congo-Brazaville, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Kenya and the Gabon.

"When we came to Africa, (Indian-owned telecom provider) Airtel gave us an opportunity to set up shop in seven countries, including Nigeria, by taking over their call centres," Sevellimedu said.

The company's operation in Nigeria, for instance, has seen a steady growth. The Abeokuta centre, which cost about $3 million to construct and another $6 million to operationalise, can accommodate 651 work stations in a built-up area of 171,240 square metres that also includes an in-house clinic and a spacious cafeteria.

There are plans to build three more call centres in Lagos and the current workforce of about 1,000 is likely to double.

Sevellimedu said that from the time the company began its operations in Nigeria in 2011, "the journey till today has been very exciting. I am proud that we were able to support local employment and development of the economy."

Analysts say much of Africans' unemployment problem is likely to be resolved as Tech Mahindra increases its operations across the continent.

According to Girish Nair, Tech Mahindra's Nigeria head, the ICT industry had the potential to radically reduce the country's unemployment rate if properly developed and suggested that the government pay serious attention to this.

Nair suggested some regulation of the communication industry to "encourage business process outsourcing and also encourage inshore/offshore companies outsource their customer services to professional companies in the industry to enhance customer experience."

"I can boldly say that Tech Mahindra has brought into industry the best practices based on our global experience cutting across all industries worldwide," he said, adding, "The company's services can support the growth of the industry in Nigeria based on the global experience we have brought in recruitment and training."

Nair cited the example of the Middle East where, he said, the government gives monetary incentives to the industry.

He also suggested the need for the continuous training of staff. Towards this end, the company has begun selecting graduates for training in India, after which they are given large IT projects to run. Last year, 20 graduates from Kenya, Nigeria and Ghana benefited from the training programme. This year, another 35 have been selected for training.

In spite of the successes, Nair said irregular power supply and insecurity have become some of the challenges confronting the company.

(Francis Kokutse can be contacted at fkokutse@hotmail.com)

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